Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will not face criminal charges stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct made against him by several women, a grand jury in Texas determined Friday.
The decision by the Harris County grand jurors could clear the way for Watson to be traded by the Texans in the coming days or weeks and for the quarterback to resume his NFL career in the 2022 season, although he still faces accusations by women in civil lawsuits and possible disciplinary action by the league.
"When you stand on the TRUTH, the LORD will FREE you!” Watson tweeted Friday evening.
A prosecutor presented the criminal case to the grand jury Friday as Watson began giving depositions in the civil cases.
Eight women who filed criminal complaints against Watson were subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office investigated the matter after 10 women filed criminal complaints last year against Watson.
The lack of criminal charges could lead to several NFL teams pursuing Watson in a potential trade. The Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks have been among the teams linked to Watson in trade speculation.
When you stand on the TRUTH, the LORD will FREE you! 🙏🏾— Deshaun Watson (@deshaunwatson) March 11, 2022
Other quarterback-needy NFL teams include the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Miami Dolphins said at the NFL scouting combine that they would no longer pursue a potential trade for Watson.
Watson, 26, was selected to three Pro Bowls in his first four NFL seasons with the Texans. He led the NFL in passing yards in the 2020 season. He requested a trade from the Texans last year before the allegations against him became public. Watson did not play at all last season, when the Texans put him on their game-day inactive list on a weekly basis.
He and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have denied the accusations.
“Now that the criminal investigations have been completed, we are happy to move forward with the civil case depositions,” Hardin said in a statement. “We will vigorously defend those cases with every ounce we have."
Watson still could face discipline from the league, in the form of a fine or suspension, even without criminal charges.
The NFL probably would decide on potential discipline once the civil cases are resolved, leaving teams interested in trading for Watson to consider the possibility that he could be suspended. The league has not put Watson on paid administrative leave via placement on the commissioner’s exempt list.
“We have been closely monitoring all developments in the matter which remains under review of the personal conduct policy,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.
The league has interviewed at least 10 women as part of its ongoing investigation of Watson, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Twenty-two women, all represented by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, sued Watson, accusing him of a range of behaviors that include making inappropriate comments, exposing himself and forcing his penis on the women’s hands, among other allegations.
“The civil cases will continue to gather steam,” Buzbee said via email. “We take Mr. Watson’s depo again Tuesday. We have to respect the process.”
What to read about the NFL
The latest: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced that the committee intends to issue a subpoena to compel the testimony of Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.
Exclusive: An employee of Washington’s NFL team accused Snyder of asking for sex, groping her and attempting to remove her clothes, according to legal correspondence obtained by The Post. A team investigation concluded the woman was lying in an attempt to extort Snyder.
Civil suits settled: Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has reached settlement agreements in 20 of the 24 active civil lawsuits filed against him by women who accused him of sexual misconduct, the attorney for the women announced.
Jerry Brewer: “The Browns were prepared for initial turbulence, but they assumed they were getting Watson at the end of his troubles. Now his disgrace is their disaster.”